PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti is a nation of noise, color, heat, and movement this weekend, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated the nation’s first temple.
Haiti has been devastated by disasters, poverty and crime, which is why church members are excited for the temple. They say it will bring peace, purpose and strength to their nation.
There is a stillness and peace that can be found on the temple grounds, members said. A peace that Marie Claire Jean-Jacque desperately needed last July when there were riots in the streets and her husband could not get home.
“I said to myself, if the temple had been there, I would have gone to the temple and spent the day in the House of God and felt peace. It was the only place where I could feel peace,” Jean-Jacque said.
Bernado Jean-Jaque also believes the temple will bring the nation more peace.
“The temple will affect every part, every part [of the country],” he said.
Before this temple that now sits in Port-au-Prince, Williamson Sintyl says church members would make an expensive trip lasting anywhere between 8 to 12 hours across the island to the Dominican Republic. For many members of the church, they made that trip traveling by crowded bus or in the back of a pickup — options that have grown more dangerous and more expensive. Many members could not do it.
“Haitian people used to travel 12 hours on the bus because they didn’t have the money to pay for an airplane,” he said, becoming emotional. “Sometimes we don’t have the money to come back to Haiti because there is a government problem.”
In Juvenat, up and down hilly, windy roads and behind another gate, down some steps made out of discarded tires on a steep hillside, Shella Privert lives in one of many homes the church built after the earthquake of 2010. She is grateful for the addition of a temple to her city. She says the temple gives her life purpose and hope.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a miracle to Haiti,” she said. “And the temple makes me happier. I will do my very best to be able to go to the temple.”
The future of Haiti is in this room.
-Elder David A. Bednar
That’s the message that the youth of the church heard Saturday during a youth devotional with Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Bednar explained further on Sunday morning, just before he dedicated the temple. The new temple, he said, would bless not just church members but the entire nation.
“As you travel to places with economic challenges,” he said, “it’s amazing how the temple is a source of light, not only spiritually but temporally. So if we come back in 15 years, this neighborhood will be different, and Haiti will be different.”
“That’s the number one thing Haiti needs – instead of giving them stuff, they need a temple,” said Sintyl. “They need to feel like they are not alone. They need to feel like they are a part of the Lord’s people. That the Lord is aware, and he is here with us.”
Sophia Lundy sees this temple from the eyes of an engineer and architect.
“We have a great nation, but we have so many setbacks. The temple is a testimony that anything great and beautiful can be built in Haiti,” she said, adding that she helped in the beginning stages of the project.
Lundy says many groups who build in Haiti cut corners or didn’t care about code. But the temple was built carefully, solidly, and beautifully.
It’s not large. It has tall straight palm trees outside, and palm leaf patterns inside and is filled with blues and greens and the gold colors of the island.
The church for years has also built solid and safe chapels and homes in Haiti and done humanitarian work and educational efforts.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a country that is struggling when you are building the house of the Lord. When you are doing anything to benefit the children of God, you do it right,” said Lundy.
“There is a new era in Haiti. There is new hope,” said Marie Claire Jean-Jacque.
“The temple will affect every part, every part, of our country,” said Bernardo Jean-Jacque. “It changes us and affects the lives of those around us.”
At the dedication, at Elder Bednar’s request, the choir changed a word in their hymn. Instead of the dawning of a brighter day, majestic, rising on the world, he asked that they sing about a bright dawn rising, majestic, on Haiti.
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